Image: Hitler Bows to Hindenburg March 25, 2016Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
Two of the most important men in twentieth-century German history stand on the steps of Potsdam Garrison Church, 21 March 1933. On the right one of the great generals of the First World War, Paul von Hindenburg, in full Imperial uniform with the Prussian Pickelhaube. Hindenburg was, of course, the victor of Tannenberg, a decisive, maiming first blow against the Russian army in August 1914: he was also by 1933 the German President and in a little over a year the old man would be dead; he is 85 in the picture. On the left ‘the Bohemian Corporal’ (as Hindenberg insisted on erroneously calling him) and the leader of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler, a man Hindenburg despised. And why are both these titans standing on some church steps in spring in (with apologies) a German city of only secondary importance. Well, for Hitler this is the day of days… He is there for a celebration, to which Hindenburg has been tactfully invited, just as Hitler prepares to become, without any troubling alliances as in January 1933, German Chancellor.
Hitler was an actor with several characters in his repertoire: there was the messianic slatherer; there was the courteous Bavarian gentleman; there was the outraged victim; there was the Nietzchean supervillain; the dinner party bore… The real fascination here is that Hitler is playing a very rare role captured perfectly by the camera: the deferential servant of the German state. Hindenburg is the embodiment not only of the German army, but of the German Empire (as was) and Hitler in bowing the knee to the German President is showing his understanding of his debt to the chthonic spirits of German history. It also could hardly hurt to pet the Wehrmacht publicly, through their favourite mascot, on the day of Hitler’s crowning. And Potsdam? Inside the church of Potsdam there was the body of Frederick II (‘the Great’). Hindenburg was, also, an old man: Hitler knew that he would not have to bow much longer. On Hindenburg’s death, Hitler, with the help of one of his ‘plebiscites’, combined the role of President and Chancellor, the burden of which he ‘generously’ took up for the greater good of the Reich. The Nazis, who were as good at twisting the German language as historical moments, called it ‘coordination’.
Here is the same image from a different angle
Beach is always on the look out for unusual or striking photographs: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com
25 Mar 2016: Dennis writes in, ‘Dear Doctor, your pictures of Chancellor Hitler and President Hindenburg brought to mind a comment which may be related to these photos. In a book on military history (possibly Wm McElwee’s Art of War: Waterloo to Mons), it was noted that Hindenburg loathed Hitler. When they entered the chapel of the Potsdam Grenadiers, Hindenburg used his marshal’s baton to salute the empty chair of the german emperor. By showing his respect for the old order and the old leadership of the Hohenzollern dynasty, this was supposedly a clear message to the assembled dignitaries of his view of the “Corporal from Bohemia”. The old man probably knew he was dying, and wished to make clear his contempt for the change his country was undergoing. In trying to think of a similar gesture in the Anglo-Saxon culture, perhaps if the Fleet Admiral of the Royal Navy after suffering through massive budget cuts, ignored Queen Elizabeth and rendered honors at the grave of Alfred the Great.
25 Mar 2016: LTM points out that in the second photograph we have Goring in the background….